Is it legal for her to charge a fee I was never informed of and to keep both of my paychecks?

UPDATED: Aug 5, 2012

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Is it legal for her to charge a fee I was never informed of and to keep both of my paychecks?

I do lawn service as an independent contractor. My paycheck was due on Wednesday. I tried to contact my employer and when I was finally able to reach her on Friday, she informed me that she had my paycheck and more work for us. We told her we could do it. Then after a look at our finances we decided we didn’t have enough money to fund another months worth of work so I e-mailed her to let her know we weren’t going to be able to do the routes she sent out. She then sent me an e-mail back saying that she was going to charge us a $10 reassignment fee for every lawn we didn’t complete. She is now holding/keeping both of our last paychecks. There was never anything mentioned about this fee prior to my resignation. I it legal for her to keep both my paychecks?

Asked on August 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As an independent contractor, your work was done pursuant to a contract, or agreement, as to the terms of employment, what you would be paid, etc.--even if it was only an oral (or verbal) agreement, it was still a contract. Neither party may add to or change the terms of the agreement without the agreement of the other party, so she may not charge you any fees which you had not agreed to. She also must pay you for the work you did, pursuant to the terms of your agreement, and may not withhold your compensation. If she will not pay you voluntarily, you can sue her to recover your money. A good option is likely to sue in small claims court, where you can act as your own attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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